Monday, May 4, 2009

The art of coincidence

Folks say only a fool who flunked math would risk cash on a lottery ticket. They said the odds against winning big are astronomical.

Maybe so.

But I say that every moment of our day is awash in odds beyond comprehension. Life is a near infinite mesh work of intersections, figure-eights and parallels and the probability that any given second would configure itself the way it does is something no one would ever lay a wager on.

Coincidence happens all the time, but there is an art to it. Let me explain by way of a true story.

Please follow closely.

On the second day at a new job, I was walking briskly down a hall and carrying a half a mug of still warm coffee. As I rounded a corner, a woman who was walking backwards, away from a conversation she was ending with someone, backs right into my chest. Almost at the same moment, a guy behind me who had just entered the hall from an office tripped and fell forward against my back.

Now watch this in SLOW MOTION:

The woman is first jolted by being abruptly stopped by my body.

My arms, by reflex, swing forward and wrap around her.

My right hand tips the mug onto her blouse and dumps coffee all over her.

My left hand touches her where only a husband should.

She begins to twist toward me.

The second jolt hits her as the guy behind me slams into my back on his way to the floor.

Two things happen almost immediately: 1) Coffee sprays out of my mouth, wetting the side of the woman’s face. 2) Inexplicably, cheesecake floats up from behind me and travels over my right shoulder, lightly breaking up on her head as she completes her twist to face me.

So far, only one second has elapsed.

Still to come was me falling on top of the woman and the guy behind me sliding face-first on his bagel, plugging his nose with cream cheese and doing a jerky cartwheel over both of us and into a wall.

No one was hurt!

So this is the coincidence. The woman was born in Peoria, Illinois, the guy was born in Logan, Utah and I was born in Port Chester, New York. All of us began life in separate decades. Our biographies had no prior common points and we had never met before.

And yet on that day, we performed a highly orchestrated and intricate act of physical intimacy at a moments notice, unrehearsed! We didn’t think about it, we just did it.

A lottery ticket is only a dollar.

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